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Domestic violence: Trying to make rational sense of irrational behavior


I used to have neighbors who fought all the time. I mean bowling balls against the wall, blood on the sidewalk and glass-shattering kinds of fights.

Their arguments often included lots of profanity, beer and screams. One day they seemed happy. The next day they were in what seemed to be a life or death brawl.

I wondered why they stayed together. That was my first mistake. You can’t find rational answers to irrational behavior.

When I moved, I told both the same thing: “You know how this will turn out, right? One of you will end up dead; the other will end up in jail.”

A few months after I left, the boyfriend was arrested for domestic battery, false imprisonment, intimidation by threatening a law enforcement officer and threatening a victim.

Two weeks later, charges were dropped.

Earlier this month she was beaten badly. According to the arrest report, she was choked to the point of passing out. Her bottom lip was bitten and she had boot marks and bruises on her arms, hands, thighs, knees, hips and chest. She also had blood coming from her mouth and ears.

The report said it appeared both had been drinking.

She was offered the opportunity to go to a domestic abuse center. She declined.

The boyfriend posted bond after his arrest and was ordered not to have any contact with her or to go within 2,500 feet of her.

I saw them together last week.

I don’t understand. Then again, I’m looking for a reasonable answer.

I’ve talked to the girlfriend. I told her I would connect her with programs that can help her put her life back together. She promised to be smart, but she doesn’t owe me any such assurance. She owes it to herself. Nobody can do it for her.

So what do I do? What can anybody do?

According to moms.com, there are four basic reasons why a woman won’t leave. They blame themselves for the violence; they’re addicted to the battle for control; they believe things will change; and, they’re scared of the future.

I’ve always had a roof over my head, supportive friends and family and a positive outlook for the future. I can’t imagine the desperation and fear of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. That probably would make me do irrational things, too.

So why won’t she leave? According to womensaid.org, it would require approaching the victim differently. Instead of blaming a survivor for not leaving, we need to be supportive of a decision if they decide to go. But she has to make the first move.

The website also said an abuser relies on isolating the victim to keep her from recognizing his behavior is abusive and controlling. Now I know why she often hid her cellphone inside my storm door.

Domestic violence often occurs when the abuser thinks it’s acceptable, justified or unlikely to be reported. And when it is reported, the survivor often fails to prosecute. Sound familiar?

The average survivor leaves seven times before deciding to make a permanent separation. For too many, that permanent separation involves the coroner.

For the sake of my neighbors, I hope that doesn’t mean my warning comes true. The last thing I want is one of them to be dead and the other in jail.